The WWI armistice was signed at about 5 AM Paris time on November 11 but was set not to take effect until 11 AM. Except for the nifty “The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the elevent month” I have found nothing saying why this was done. Many commanders in the field recieved new of the armistice news and still sent men out in offensive operations right up to 11 AM. Was there a reason for the delay?
Really? Some fool went out on patrol knowing the war was over? Cite? I would really like to know.
I would point out how looney that would have been with all the gunners firing off ceremonial ‘last’ shots for several hours.
Turning to (but not directly toward) the OP, treaties always had time to let the news get out. In the Napoleonic War, treaties had elaborate timetables saying the war in (say) the Caribbean would end XX days after ratification and so on. A fight before that deadline was OK, one afterwards was a late punch.
In the modern era, such things still happen. The Instrument of Surrender ending The War in Europe specified 2301 CET as the time fighting on all fronts would end.
A schoolmate of my mother was killed after the WWI armistice went into effect. It is no doubt done so that ongoing operations can be terminated and there will be no misunderstanding as to whether or not the armistice is in effect at the time some last minute action takes place.
I think we can safely assume that General Pershing is currently experiencing a very warm afterlife.
There is also the issue of communications. Your talking about getting everyone on both sides to understand that the war is over when they were using runners telegraphs, and a very tricky phone system (the later two depending on uncut lines) You try to get hundreds of thousands of people to stop what they have been doing for four straight years under six hours with those limitations.
Just Think about how tied up the lines would have been as confirmations were asked from each unit involved.
Better safe than sorry as far as timeing to prevent the war from suddenly flaring up again because some Unit launched an attack istead of laying down arms.
I went through the Canadian Corps unit war diaries that are available online, and pretty much the whole Corps happened to be in “rest” on the 11th, doing training or parade inspections, etc. One battalion was ordered forward into Mons on the morning of the 11th, and “took” it without casualties (Mons being the first battle of 1914 for the British).
However, the British were still operating up until 11 a.m.:
this web page, which quotes the Official History Military Operations France and Belgium, 1918.
I requested it from the Nashville Library.
Keep in mind that the armistice was just that–an armistice, not an unconditional surrender and not a treaty of peace. With the advantage of hindsight, we know that the war was over, but that wasn’t obvious at the time. If the cease-fire broke down, or if the German armies refused to comply with its terms, the armistice line would be the jumping off point for further operations. Some commanders wanted to secure as advantageous a line as possible.
In the end, fighting almost did resume in June 1919 after the Germans saw the Versailles Treaty. By that time, Germany had long since cleared out of Belgium and France, so the armistice line was moot, but it illustrates the point that it wasn’t certain in November 1918 that the fighting was over.
Rodd, according to General Currie, there were casualties on both sides at Mons. This is from General Currie’s diary:
Quoted in The Last Day, the Last Hour, by Robert Sharpe - an account of the libel trial that General Currie later brought against a newspaper which wrote an article accusing him of throwing away his men’s lives at the last minute. The jury found for General Currie.
D’oh! I should really have known that…Currie served here, and at the other Victoria forts prior to WWI in the local artillery militia.
You’d probably find the Sharpe book an interesting read - the trial was very controversial, because it served as a post-war proxy for the debate over the generalship during the Great War. Currie wasn’t in very good health at the time, and brought the action against advice from his colleagues. Ended up being vindicated by the jury.